Monday, November 27, 2006

Republicans should be rabid environmentalists

Oil is a wonderful commodity. It powers more than 40% of our country's energy needs, and 99% of our automobiles.

But more than half the oil we use is imported. We don't produce enough oil domestically to run our economy, as we know it today. Although we get a great deal of oil from friendly countries like Kuwait, Argentina, Canada and Colombia, we import vast amounts from Libya (3.5 million barrels per month), Saudi Arabia (46 million barrels per month) and Venezuela (44 million barrels per month).

Unfortunately, the United States has little say over how these countries spend the profits they reap from oil. Our best oil trading partners use the funds for infrastructure, debt or education. The worst oil producing countries squander the money, build up their military, or worse - provide material and financial support for terrorists, supply arms, and provide bomb-making know-how.

Terrorists do not operate in a vacuum. They must be fed, clothed, and equipped with weaponry. Mercenaries are hired to train them. A number of powerful figures give them moral support. Their sponsors; mullahs, sheiks and foreign powers, all have one thing in common: oil money. The same fossil fuel that drives our economy also keeps a steady flow of cash in the hands of our enemies. Each time we pull up to a gas station, pops the fuel tank door and slides the nozzle in, the numbers on the pump inch upward. Money changes hands, the gas station takes its cut, royalties are paid to the corporation, and the employees are paid. Yet, before you even pull into the station, before the gas is shipped there, before the oil is refined - money has been deposited in an offshore bank account belonging to a foreign power that uses its own discretion to spend that money.

By the time you've topped off your tank and driven to work, America's oil purchases have already been busy around the globe.

Oil pays Saudi citizens to stay home and read the Koran, focus on prayer, and attend vitriolic diatribes against the U.S. and the West at the mosque. Unemployed men fester in the streets, they resent the state but misplace their anger towards the United States.

Oil windfall profits provide Iran with access to Nuclear technology and equipment.

Oil alone - this single commodity - has the power to drag our country into recession (again).

Oil props up corrupt regimes.

Oil is inextricably linked to Middle East instability.

Oil keeps the U.S. subservient to foreign powers, impairing our sovereignty.

Oil helps bankroll the global jihadi movement.

I'm now going to attempt to connect two seemingly discordant themes here...

Republicans pride themselves on their national security credentials. They are not afraid to stand up to foreign dictators, they never shy away from boosting Pentagon spending, and (when they're feeling conservative enough) strive to promote American independence from world bodies, and outside influences.

Then why in God's name do conservatives continue to bolster the flag-waving pick-up trucks, why ridicule Global Warming as a myth and simultaneously decry fuel-efficiency standards as un-American? Are they insane?

What makes more sense, losing a few thousand car manufacturing jobs due to stringent fuel efficiency standards and higher costs (if that is true) or spending $300 Billion+ to go to war against an enemy that is funded by our voracious fuel appetite? Are we cutting our nose to spite our face? Are we missing the big picture?

We import more than half of the oil we use from abroad. Let's say a quarter of that oil comes from the middle east. If we cut one quarter of our fuel consumption, as tough as it may be initially, we'd have the terrorists by the balls. Their funds would be seriously reduced, Americans would be healthier, less money would be spent at the pump, and our national security would no longer be compromised by our energy needs.

Where is the negative in this argument?

I am frankly shocked that no Republican has grabbed this as a "National Security" Issue. President Bush would simply have to declare a state of emergency, as we're wont to do during every hurricane season, or whenever a creek overflows upstate. With little argument, his fellow Republicans would get behind him and march in line.

But why won't he do that? I still can't figure it out. If a serious energy-saving policy had been proposed in 2001 after the terrorist attacks, the U.S. could have immediately expanded credits for fuel efficient hybrids, closed the loophole for SUV's, and significantly raised fuel economy across the board. In the days and weeks after September 11th, behind the back drop of shared sacrifice, national defense and energy security, the idea would have been embraced without a problem.

No oil or car industry executive would have had the gall to criticize the plan.

The question of job loss can also be turned on its head. For example, research into alternative fuels and energy will create new jobs. Better still, we can use the opportunity to cultivate our own domestic resources, such as oil shale. This monograph can be found on the RAND Corporation website. It details the history of oil shale (or lack of) cultivation in this country. At conservative estimates, if this domestic fuel could be harvested, we would generate 3 million barrels of oil a day at home, drastically cut our imports, and created thousands of new jobs.

Unfortunately, little action has been taken on these issues, due to a lack of political will and foresight. The single greatest failure of the Bush administration has been a lack vision to tackle this issue. We will be paying for this mistake with every dollar that falls into enemy hands.

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